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Referring Providers

The term “neurodiversity” comes from the belief that irregular neurological conditions are a normal part of life, and that we should come to accept those who are different than us rather than try to “cure” them. As I’ve come to learn that I am somewhere on the spectrum of autism myself, I have begun to meet and interact with others with similar conditions. I’ve found that most if not all of them have adopted the phrase “neurodiversity” and have been advocating for it. With this word to rally around, a sense of community among those with neurological conditions has grown larger.

group of people standing in a line

Some of us felt guilty for being different from other people. The truth is, however, that roughly one in every hundred people are diagnosed with autism, and, thanks to a numerous amount of resources now available to the public, many people such as myself have found themselves feeling far more empowered. [1] Now that I’ve learned that I’m not alone, I’ve been able to be more open and act more like myself, instead of trying to fit into a mold of sorts. I’ve found that this has made me generally more likeable, happy, and outgoing.

Joining or learning about a community that accepts you is incredibly helpful. One such story is the story published on CNN about Trevor Pacelli. From a young age, he struggled to make friends, and it took him a long time to find those who connected with him. When he did find those groups that he worked with, however, he was able to adapt and overcome his personal challenges. “In high school,” Trevor said, “I joined the school’s drama department, which helped tremendously in getting to know people better and picking up on social cues.” [2]

Similarly, when I was younger, I was often much higher functioning around groups of people whom I could trust and be myself around. They were accepting of me, and due to the low-stress nature of the friendships, I turned bonding moments into “social learning opportunities.” Although I still don’t inherently understand every social cue, these social groups have helped me tremendously just as they helped Trevor.

What’s important to note, however, is that I wouldn’t ever let these experiences change who I am fundamentally as a person. I acknowledge that I’m still very different from others, and I can accept that: I flap my hands when I’m happy, sometimes I’ll clap or sing at inappropriate times, and often I’ll have a lot of trouble processing what people are saying. These are things that I tried to hide for years out of shame, but no amount of hiding ever made them go away. Better to just accept myself. It’s not like I’m hurting anyone by being a little odd.

While not everyone can learn or understand in the same way (neurodiversity!) we should all try to come together and understand each other for who we are. I believe that the research within the mental health field of various neurological conditions is fantastic; however, I also believe that sometimes we let the fear of having a social disorder get in the way of recognizing our strengths and what we have to offer just as we are.

Sources:
[1] – “Autism Facts and History.” The National Autistic Society, www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/myths-facts-stats.aspx
[2] – Pacelli, Trevor. “Growing up Autistic: My Story.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Apr. 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/04/02/health/iyw-growing-up-autistic/index.html

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